May 4, 2012

Wildflowers from Winter: My Story


Today’s post is part of a blog hop coordinated by Katie Ganshert, author of Wildflowers from Winter, which releases next Tuesday (check out my interview with Katie and comment there for a chance to win a copy of her book!). WFW is a poignant story about how God can use the hard times in our lives to bring beauty.
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I grew up in the church. Accepted Christ when I was 6. Attended church three times a week. Memorized a bazillion verses (thank you, AWANA!). Participated in numerous camps and outreaches. Didn’t commit the “big sins.” Was an all-around goody-goody who loved life.

And then, when I was 15, my mom got sick. The dreaded word: cancer.

I remember crying a lot. But I kept going to school, kept getting those good grades, kept participating at church. I just knew my mom was going to get better.

Because there was no way God would let her die. No way that could happen to me. To her. To us. We were some of the "good ones." And God loved us. So He’d protect us...wouldn't He?

Fast forward a few years. After surgery and chemotherapy in a pill, my mom was still sick. Her cancer was being held at bay, but she couldn’t work and she was getting thinner by the day. And I went off to college. It was only a 2-hour drive from Phoenix, but I left.

I don’t know why I went away. Maybe I had to get away because I couldn’t stand the sadness. Or maybe because I truly believed there was no way Mom would ever die. Like I said, God didn’t let stuff like that happen to people like us…right?

As my mom got sicker that year, and I was however many miles away, I started to question, to doubt. While people told me how amazingly strong I was to face what I was facing, I doubted…and felt like a big ol’ hypocrite.

I doubted a lot of things: Whether God actually loved me like He said He did. Whether He really had the power to heal. Whether I was following the “right religion” and praying to the right God.

And, most terrifying to my confused teenage heart, whether God even existed.

I remember sitting there on my dorm room bed, staring up at the ceiling, thinking, “What if God doesn’t exist? He HAS to exist. I FEEL it. I KNOW it. Right? But if He exists and doesn’t love me—because how could He let this be happening if He loved me—how is that any better? And if He DOESN’T exist, then what’s the point of life at all?”

I fell into a depression of sorts. I no longer knew what to believe. Everything I’d believed in had been shaken.

But then, God began to move.

No, my mom didn’t get better. In fact, she got worse. And that prompted me to transfer to a different university and live at home. Maybe that helped me to face everything. I don’t know. But slowly, God began speaking to my heart--or maybe I just finally started listening. He spoke to my heart through the rest of my mom’s life and even when she died (I was 19) and through the funeral and the days after.

He planted a seed of truth there in the tender crevices of my hurting heart.

That truth?

First, that it was OK to question. Questioning is part of making our faith our own.

Second, that no matter the circumstances, He is good, and He loves me.

And finally, instead of asking “Why me?”, I should be asking a different question: “Why not me?”

Why SHOULDN’T I suffer in this life? Did I think I was better than those over who have lost their entire families to war, or those who have been raped and beaten, or who have experienced excruciating loss far greater than I’ll ever know? Greater than the people who had died in 9/11? Greater than martyrs who have died for their faith?

And Jesus suffered. Did I think I was better than Him?

My whole life, I’d been thinking that if I only did what was right and followed the “rules,” I’d be protected from any adversity. But God promises that we ALL will face adversity.

Yet, He also says, “Take heart. I have overcome the world.”

In hindsight, I can see it, how God took that seed of truth He planted during the winter of my life—when harsh winds shook me and snow suppressed my joy—and He watered it.

And from it has grown a flower of faith and trust, one that I know would never have been so beautiful, so full, so bright, if I had never experienced the winter that came before it.

Thank you for letting me share my story and my heart with you. I would love to hear yours. Has God ever worked in your winter to bring flowers of faith?

*Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

32 comments:

  1. What a beautiful story, Lindsay! I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. :-( Yes, I've had some flowers...

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    1. Thanks, Jessica. And yes, I can see the bloom in your life!

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  2. Linds, you answered so many questions for doubting minds. This story was so deep and moving and I just wanna give you a big ole' hug! (and while hugging you deposit a JAWS DVD in your pocket!)

    Love you, girl! You inspire me!

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    1. Aw, I'd hug you right back (and slip the JAWS DVD back into your purse...).

      YOU inspire me. Love ya back!

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  3. thanks for sharing your story!

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  4. Lindsay, I fought tears as I read your story. I'm amazed what God did in your heart through your mom's illness. Like Jess, as I read, I just wanted to give you a hug...although I'd probably slip you a Starbucks gift card in hopes of converting you to coffee instead of a Jaws dvd. :) But seriously, thank you for sharing your story and letting us see God at work in a broken heart.

    p.s. Awana!! Oh yes, such a huge part of my childhood!

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    1. I'll take that hug and that Starbucks card in September (what? Starbucks has some non-coffee drinks!). :P

      And yay AWANA!

      But on the serious side, thanks for reading and for being real back.

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  5. Love how faithful God is. Love that when Thomas doubted, He didn't scold him, He told Thomas to touch the scars in his hands. I love that, Lindsay, because I'm a natural doubter. It's he way God made me. Doubt is that thorn in my flesh. I struggle with it all the time.

    I'm learning there's a big difference between belief (which is a feeling) and faith (which is a life of obedience). I live by faith and I get to experience Him working in undeniable ways in my heart and life.

    Thanks for sharing this!!

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    1. Thanks for including me in your blog hop, Katie.

      I agree...doubting can be so hard, but God gives us the strength to trust.

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  6. It was amazing how friends would crop up around me after my time of loss, opening their hearts, needing a listening ear and I was able to minister to them in a very raw and honest way. I lived through it, so my story encouraged them. I love how God can use us after and even through the pain. Thanks for being vulnerable today.
    ~ Wendy

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    1. We suffer so we can comfort others in their struggles. I love that too, Wendy.

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  7. I am so touched by this, Lindsay. One of my best friends in high school watched her mom deteriorate to cancer for years. Her mom died our senior year of high school.

    Many people don't understand that cancer can put a pall on a home for years--she truly lost her mother five years before she died. It was terrible.

    Your message is spot-on, though. God uses pain to bring us closer to Him.

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    1. It's definitely true, Jill. I think I went through the entire grieving process before Mom even died.

      But in the end, everything God allows, He uses...if we're willing.

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  8. Thank you so much for opening your heart. What a great perspective--"Why not me?" When my mom, who is the sweetest optimist I know, got cancer, I certainly asked that "Why" question many times, wishing God would've given ME cancer instead of her. All I know is that she came through it with a testimony brighter than I could ever hope to have. So maybe that was "why." I'm taking this advice to heart, as I go through different trials--"WHY NOT ME?"

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    1. I'm so glad your mom made it through, Heather. What hope and triumph!

      And yes, that truth in particular changed my life forever.

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  9. Lindsay, your testimony is amazing. I oftened asked myself the same thing - I'm a good kid, I've made all the right decisions and done all the right things, why am I going through the pain? But, why not? I love how you put that. If Jesus suffered, do I think I am better than Him? He never sinned, yet He suffered greater than we'll ever imagine. If we want to share in His glory, than we must also share in His suffering - I'm beginning to understand that a lot better now.

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  10. I love your thoughts about "why shouldn't we suffer?" Not that I love the feeling of it, but that is what God is showing me lately that these lives are such a tiny blip in the glory that is to come.

    I was 19 when my Dad was diagnosed with liver cancer and 24 when he died so I really relate. My brother was 16 when Dad died and doesn't know Jesus. I can't imagine how those who don't know him can make it through a loss.

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    1. Aw, Julia, I so relate to what you're saying. I'm sorry for your loss. My brother was 15 when my mom died, and he definitely struggled in different ways than I did. I think, at 23, he's still finding his way out of the fog in many ways.

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  11. Such a moving story. I will share this with our youth on Sunday. Many of them are questioning and hating themselves for it. But they need to know questioning is part of this journey of Christian faith!

    You are right. We never ask ourselves why shouldn't we suffer even though we are told we will suffer throughout God's Word.

    But we are also told He will be there through it all.

    Blessings to you my friend!
    Ruth

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    1. I think it's essential that people--especially teenagers--realize this. If we just accept EVERYTHING, and never investigate for ourselves, we never make our faith our own.

      Then again, there's a point at which we have to trust God.

      Blessings right back!

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  12. Lindsay,

    And the truth shall set you free, even when it's just a seed, even when it seems to take FOREVER to bloom! I'm with you, going through the winter makes the blooms so much more amazing. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Becky. You're right, our timing is not God's timing. He is such a patient gardener, isn't He?

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  13. Linz,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I am looking forward to meeting your Mom one day in heaven. She raised a wonderful daughter, and I am so thankful that you are my daughter now. Even though I didn't know you very well then, I was praying for you and your family. God has used this to bring you closer to Him and to make your faith genuine.
    I'm not sure I will ever understand why God chooses to take some of our loved ones "home" and yet heals another...but I do know that He loves each of us and has a plan and purpose for each of our lives. It has been through the darkest and most difficult times in my life that God has proved himself worthy of my trust. With each struggle He has taught me to "count it all joy" and rejoice that He will be with me in any situation I will ever face in this life. I'm certain I would never have learned this without the trials...Remember, without the long cold winter no flower bulbs would bloom in the spring. I think the winters of our lives are much the same.

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    1. Thank you, Nancy. You are such a wonderful, wonderful mother-in-law, and I'm blessed to have you in my life! And you're totally right...without the rain and snow, things wouldn't grow. Love you!

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  14. Lindsay--thanks for sharing your story with so many. My mom is a cancer survivor, age 84, and I don't know why she has had to suffer for so many years. Even though God spared her life, she has been sick for so long and not able to get relief from the pain of cancer. Now my brother-in-law has it. I have watched him go from a strong healthy 50-something to a thin, very ill, man just waiting to cross over to be with Jesus. He is ready, so that is the good news. My sister is not ready, so that is a challenge. I hope to encourage her soon when I fly back to IN which will probably be soon, as he is getting weaker by the day. Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God (Andre Crouch)--couldn't have said it better--God is faithful, and His mercy endures forever. God bless you as you take comfort in the One who gave Himself for you. In His love, Carolyn Ackerman

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    1. I'm sorry for what you're going through, Carolyn. It's so difficult to watch a loved one suffer, and for so long.

      And you're right: God is faithful. He is there to uphold us in those times when we can't hold ourselves up.

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  15. Kristin ElizabethMay 7, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    Yes, I have endured a few obstacles in my life and wondered why, then realized the same, why not?! Why am I so special that nothing should happen to me. I was younger then. Now I always rely on Christ to get me through the bad stuff. He is always there. And when I feel that there is no one to turn to, I know that is completely wrong. I have God on my side always.

    You have honored your mother over and over in how you have conducted your life Lindsay. She would be so very proud of you and your accomplishments. You are truly a woman of God. And I am honored to have you as my step-daughter. I love you always, Kristin.

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    1. You're right, Kristin. God is on our side. He loves us.

      And thank you. Your words are so sweet and mean so much.

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  16. Thanks for sharing your heart, Lindsay. I ache for the young you who had to watch that dreaded disease take your mother from you. I understand the doubts and think they are perfectly normal ones, especially during dark days such as you experienced. I'm thankful the Lord brought you through that tough time and restored your faith. I'm probably old enough to be your mom and would be happy to share some of my mom-heart with you. =)

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    1. Aw, Keli, you already have and I appreciate it soooo much! Love you!

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